Every artist I know dreams of a spacious studio flooded in natural light. A place that holds every supply for every artistic whim and holds the inspiration for a lifetime of projects. Storage is necessary. Shelves of neatly stowed yarn and fabric and paints, baskets that corral and cubbies that organize. And space: so much space that you could grow tired of one project and turn around to a clear table waiting to indulge your next must-do idea. (For me, I also fantasize about a possibly robotic minion who reorganizes the studio every night so that I never have to worry about menial tasks like tidying.)
But like most artists I know, I do not have such a space. While I am blessed with storage for my bounty of supplies and materials, I do not have a studio to stretch and flex my artistic muscles. Instead, for me, art must fill in around real life. First comes family and household chores and distantly behind, art projects carry on, space and time allowing. I need to work amidst the activity of my house because that’s where I’m “on call.” As much as I may dream of an uninterupted afternoon working in a private studio, it’s not going to happen. Not any time soon.
So I’ve learned to get projects done amidst real life. Papercutting while dinner cooks, casting on while cookies cool. I have also learned to stow my supplies here and there so that, instead of running off to gather pliers and wire cutters, I can get right to work with tools at hand. And because I’m storing these tools in the living area of my house, I need cool, presentable storage options (none of those clear Rubbermaid tubs stacked in the corner).
My favorite storage solution is the vintage metal lunch box that stows my handsewing supplies out of sight (in plain sight). The lunch box is the same kind that workers toted to work sites and factories with a domed lid that stored the Thermos. In this spacious container I can store my pincusion, scissors, beeswax, ripper, needle cards, and literally, thirty spools of thread. And if sewing’s not your thing, this baby is perfect for knitting supplies, being long enough to store most needles and an ample skein of yarn (or four). My vintage lunchbox sits out, looking divine, and no one knows what chaos it hides.
My newest supply storage space is a bit heftier. Driving by a defunct realty office one day, I spotted a big desk sitting by the dumpster. It was a cool piece, but (regretfully) had a formica veneer top glued with the most intense construction adhesive I’ve ever encountered. This wasn’t Liquid Nails, this was Liquid Satan. So I threw it in the trunk and hauled it home. A full year later I finally had the nerve to tackle that formica top, so with chisel and hammer I pried that top off and took lots of splintered wood with it. After filling in the gouges with a two-part epoxy wood filler I sanded it all down. A good woodworker would have used a power sander for a perfectly smooth surface, but I am not a good woodworker, so after two minutes of hand sanding, I embraced the uneven surface as “charming” and painted it metallic bronze. This desk now sits in my dining room (giving me another surface to load up with all the treasures I bring home form garage sales) and stores a small craft store worth of supplies. With drawers dedicated to beading, painting, sewing and etsy shipping, everything I regularly use is at hand. And out of sight.